Pies prosper as consumers opt to stay in for dessert.
Pie is already known as comfort food, but it seems its feel-good influence extends not just to those who eat it but also to those who produce it, as sales figures indicate the sweet treat has economy-defying abilities.
“With the tough economic circumstances our nation has experienced the past few years, pie has proven once again to be recession-proof,” says Mark Grandanetti, president of Rocky Mountain Pies, Salt Lake City. “All of our existing accounts have had a positive sales increase over the past two years. It's less expensive to dress up the dinner table with a nice dessert than it is to go out to dinner at a restaurant.”
But consumers aren't just looking for the best deal when it comes to selecting a dessert for their dinner table. Ultimately, comfort food must be satisfying, and consumers know that the feel-good factor of pie can't necessarily be bought for the lowest price.
“We are actually receiving more requests from our customer base to produce unique, high-end products that will ‘stop the shopping cart,’” Grandanetti notes. “Consumers seem to be spending more time at home instead of dining out, and this trend seems to be driving the high-end product sales.”
Scott Chavkin, director of marketing for VICOM, Denver, says his company also has observed this growing trend and notes that manufacturers can use this information to capture more sales.
“Consumers are choosing quality and value over price-driven, lower-quality products,” he agrees. “Quality and value can also apply to smaller sizes — 8-in. and 6-in. pies, for example. Typically, those are seen as more price-driven items, but we believe that offering a high-quality pie at a good price in those sizes can help to grow the entire category.”
Despite the new increase in at-home dining, consumers aren't changing all their eating habits. Traditional flavors remain the strongest sellers, and people don't seem quite ready to sacrifice their favorite dessert in the name of healthful eating.
Rocky Mountain Pies offers a range of no sugar added pies, but Grandanetti isn't convinced that the category will see massive change.
“It has been our experience over the years that when a consumer wants to eat a slice of pie, they want the high octane products,” he explains.
Vermont Mystic Pies in Brattleboro, Vt., has actually experienced pleas from customers not to switch to reduced sugar or low-calorie formulas.
“‘Just like Grandma made’ — that's what we're told our pies taste like, and our customers ask us not to use the ingredients that are needed to make them low fat or low calorie,” says David Barasch, president. “They don't want us to compromise on all-natural to achieve lower calories.”
When it comes to pie, it looks like the all-American dessert still has a place in people's appetites and a spot on their dinner table, which makes everyone feel good.
|Refrigerated Brand Names||Dollar Sales||% Change Year Ago||Unit Sales||% Change Year Ago|
|Private Label Pies||$126.5||↑||7.6%||28.0||↑||13.1%|
|J. Horner's Pies||$9.696||↑||54.7||1.76||↑||56.1|
|Rocky Mountain Pies||$9.342||↑||18.3||1.66||↑||23.1|
|Specialty Bakers Pies||$7.064||↑||23.0||1.76||↑||15.9|
|Jessie Lord Pies||$4.471||↑||11.4||.907||↑||13.4|
|Hill & Valley Pies||$4.118||↓||-18.7||.805||↓||-19.1|
|Fresh Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Jan. 24: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Jan. 24 Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Cakes (excl Snack/Coffee)||716,856,900||↑||3.0||137,458,900||↑||3.3|
|Pies (excl. snack pies)||222,888,800||↑||6.7||47,935,760||↑||9.5|
|Refrigerated Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Jan. 24: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Jan. 24 Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Cakes (excl Snack/Coffee)||82,150,280||↑||11.7||11,156,680||↑||17.8|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||21,945,100||↓||3.5||3,869,846||↓||5.1|
|Frozen Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Jan. 24: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Jan. 24 Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Sweetgoods (excl Cheesecakes)||212,484,400||↑||1.8||54,440,520||↓||1.0|
Source: Infoscan Reviews, Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Jan. 24, 2010